Many Miles From Manhattan


From here in Beirut, Days 1 and 2 of the GOP convention was simply no big deal. There was front-page coverage in the Monday press of the anti-Bush demonstration in Manhattan, where protestors held up mock coffins to symbolize the American dead in Iraq, but otherwise regional stories (and they're big ones) have hogged virtually all the news.

The Arabic media tend to mostly run (somewhat critical) wire service material on the convention, even as correspondents and commentators have been pursuing another U.S. story, namely the alleged Israeli mole at the Pentagon. Al-Jazeera's correspondent in New York did a sum-up of the day on prime time today, but her report was way down in the news. The Lebanese press has been mostly obsessed with the local presidential election, which was decided in the last few days when Syria imposed an extension of the president's mandate, causing a furor among most Lebanese politicians and religious leaders. (More on that election here from my Slate press review).

Any enduring messages from the GOP coverage here in the region? (1) The U.S. political system is still very much reacted to rather than acted upon, so that by the time President Bush accepts the nomination, the convention will be up in the list of news items, but without any real sense in the Middle East of how the election might play itself out; (2) American politics are still very much seen through the prism of perceived Israeli influence over the election process; and (3) There is virtually no interest in the nuts and bolts of the U.S. election, even if there is in its outcome.